Travel Log Archive
|June 24th & 25th, 2010
||Tim's 2010 UTAH 1088
| While one has to be a pretty hard core ride report junky to be interested in the 16th Place finisher’s report, it’s offered here for the 5 or 6 of you that fit that description.
Since I wanted to make it to the pre-rally BBQ on Thursday evening, I left home, in Kent, WA, right after work on Wednesday and rode to La Grande, OR for the night. This would allow me to cruise into Salt Lake City in plenty of time to check in to the rally hotel, unpack, shower and relax a bit before heading to Rally Master Steve Chalmers’ home to renew past friendships and start a few new ones.
On my way south into SLC I had planned to stop by little Roy, UT and find the Burger Bar. This 50+ year-old burger drive-in was recently featured on that show on the Food Channel hosted by the annoying, pointy-haired dude with the cool Camaro and I wanted to check it out.
My review of the Burger Bar can be found HERE
The gathering at Steve’s was great. The food and company were second to none and I thoroughly enjoyed the tire-kicking session that erupted after dinner. Steve has a lovely home and an even lovelier wife and their hospitality was very much appreciated by this relative newbie.
Friday was spent taking care of some errands and trying to quell the pre-rally nervousness that seems to vex me at these events. A few of us talked the hotel shuttle craft driver into taking us to the local Wal-Mart to pick up a few things that we either had forgotten to bring with us or that needed to be fresh – like bananas and such.
After the shopping trip, it was on to all of the pre-rally chores such as tech inspection and odometer check. I am ecstatic to report that, for the first time in my admittedly short rally career, I did not screw up the odometer check ride! I feel I should receive some kind of prize just for that.
A highlight of the afternoon was a late lunch with Iron Butt Rally finisher Joel Rappoport. Joel finished the 2009 IBR on 1976 BMW R60/6 that had a half million miles on the odometer when he started. That's an epic ride in anybody's book. Joel and I had a nice time and I got some great advice about rallying.
Before long it was time for the riders’ meeting in the hotel parking lot. The announced sequence of events had us receiving our bonus packs on Saturday morning, about 15 minutes prior to the start of the rally. Since bonus pack processing is one of the required rally activities with which I sometimes struggle, I had already decided that I wasn’t going to spend a bunch of time trying to develop a complete route but, rather, I would scan it for anything that stood out and try and be on the road within a half hour of receiving the packet. I would then try and finalize my plan on the fly.
This strategy was unlikely to produce anything resembling a great finish but at least I wouldn’t be spending several hours of rally time trying to plot a route, (that still would be unlikely to produce a stellar finish), but would be out riding which is much more fun. My plan, however, went right out the window when, upon arrival at the riders’ meeting, we all noticed a milk crate full of manila envelopes. This could only mean that we were getting the bonuses tonight.
This was good news from the standpoint that we now had plenty of time to plan our rallies but bad news in that I knew from experience that I’d be up late planning and even later second guessing. To my credit, I only got up once after turning in to look at a different route and actually got about 4 good hours of sleep before the alarm went off.
Upon opening the bonus pack I gave a cursory scan of the alternate routes and quickly decided that none of them interested me. I turned my attention to the main route, noticing the big ~16,000 point bonus for a couple of Keno tickets from Las Vegas and another big score for the 5 National Parks in Utah. The parks, combined with a few other bonuses in the general vicinity, seemed like the winning route but they also required more deserted two-lane roads after dark than I would be comfortable with given my less than optimum lighting set up. Then there was the question of whether I could do the required miles in the time allotted – and it was “all-or-nothing” as you had to get all 5 to get any points. I wasn’t at all confident that I could so I looked elsewhere for a plan. It’s not like I thought this was going to be easy.
In hindsight, I should have looked at the Vegas route again. I think that once I ruled out what I thought to be the “winning” route, I just resigned myself to a top third, or so, score. Since I really dislike Vegas and wanted to ride some more entertaining roads than I-15 all day, I discounted the Keno bonus. Ken Morton took third place by anchoring his route to the Vegas Casinos and he was within striking distance of the top two finishers’ scores - both of whom rode the National Parks route.
Instead, I spent WAY too much time and distance on the base route – especially on the first leg. There was a ~2600 point “Slow Ride” bonus available in the hotel parking lot from 7 AM till 9 AM, if I remember correctly. There were also two bonuses within minutes of the hotel, a BMW shop that wasn’t going to open until 7:30 and the Utah State Patrol offices. I had decided that, if it looked like there was going to be a line up for the slow ride, I’d head for the USP office before the BMW shop so I wouldn’t be waiting around for the latter to open. When Steve announced in the morning that the Beemer shop would now open at 7, I opted not to change my plan.
My GPS wanted me to turn on Commerce Street to get to the USP bonus but the street sign read W 320 N and I whiffed on it. After a quick U-turn and a left turn light that didn’t recognize my bike I was back onto the correct street. This actually helped because, by the time I got there, there was another rider parked and taking his photo. No searching for the right location for me. I quickly took my photo and jotted down my log sheet info without dismounting and I was off to the Beemer shop.
A Memorial to a fallen Utah State Trooper
After procuring the required signed business card from Bavarian Motorcycle Workshop, it was back to the hotel for my stab at the slow ride test. I was happy with my plan so far because, upon arriving at the test site, there was no waiting to start my first attempt. I took off too fast and missed the required 60 second duration by a few seconds. I whipped back around the median for my second and final try, confident that I’d make it this time. I was counting the seconds in my head this time and was doing just fine with a few feet to go when I reached 60. I could have just gassed it at that point and been fine. That very instant is when I lost my balance a bit and was forced to put a foot down. DANG! I almost made it but at least the attempt hadn’t cost me more than 10 or 15 minutes, including the detour to the hotel.
It would have been less time had I not noticed that the plastic tube that was supposed to be inserted into my passenger peg mounted hydration jug was instead caught between my right muffler and the subframe. When I retrieved it, it was obvious that it had been stuck there long enough to melt down to about ¼ of its original length and would be no good to me. Fortunately, Tom Melchild, the Rally Master of the CAL24 rally who had shown up to help Steve, had the same set up, (actually one on each side), on his FJR and offered to lend me one of his tubes. Without this generosity I would have been reliant on buying bottled water along my route. This extra hassle would have increased the chances of me not hydrating properly. A BIG “Thank You!” to Tom.
I am still kicking myself for heading to Wendover, NV after the slow ride. I was about halfway across Utah when it occurred to me just how many miles I was riding to get very few points. There was a gas receipt in Wendover for 4 or 5 hundred points and a Keno ticket, (actually a poker chip since they don’t sell live Keno tickets in Wendover anymore), for another few hundred points. Then we were to obtain the name of a ranch at a specific milepost marker along UT-30 on the way to Snowville for the first and only check point, (I didn’t even have to stop for this one as I jotted down the name, my odometer reading and the time on the fly). These three bonuses added up to less than 2,000 points and used up the majority of the time available in the first leg.
Interstate 80 near Bonneville Salt Flats
Utah Hwy. 30 heading towards Snowville
My only solace here was that I soon began to realize that I would be arriving at the check point an hour early. Since I had plenty of time to think about it on the way up to Snowville, I started looking for a way to use that hour besides standing around at the Flying J, (the location of the CP). My original plan called for me to ride south on I-84 on the second leg and detour west to get the ATK Rocket garden display and the Golden Spike Monument before continuing south to the junction with I-15 and riding north into Idaho for a big GPS coordinates bonus and an Idaho lottery ticket. With my newfound hour I decided I’d stop at the Flying J to get gas but then head down to the rockets and the Golden Spike before coming right back for the check point.
This would be quite a bit of backtracking but it seemed preferable to standing around and saved me a good 50 miles of detour later on. This turned out to be important towards the end of my rally. The rockets were easy to spot and photograph. If it weren’t for a big tree in front of the Golden Spike Monument I could have done the entire loop without getting off of the bike.
The ATK/Thiokol Rocket Garden display
Golden Spike Monument to the joining of the Trans Continental Railway
With all of the messing up I had done to this point it was fun to arrive at the checkpoint right at the 12:30 PM opening time. I didn’t even shut off the bike while Dave McQueeney stamped my sheet signifying I was there. I was in and back onto I-84 in less than 3 minutes. Never mind that I had virtually wasted several hours leading up to this point – I felt pretty good at that moment.
With the doubling back prior to the CP and the ride up I-15 and out to Preston, Idaho, I decided I should buy gas somewhere in Idaho before heading into western Wyoming and Colorado. As luck would have it, there was a Phillips 66 station in downtown Preston that had the lottery ticket I sought as well as multi-packs of beverages which were another bonus. I had asked Steve before the rally started if, since my favorite beverage, (Starbuck’s Double Shot Lite), comes in 4-packs instead of 6-packs, would two 4-packs satisfy the bonus requirements. He stated that one 4-pack would be fine. I couldn’t find anything in a 4 or 6-pack at this 66 station so, having learned just the day before that Ken Morton likes root beer, I opted for a 12-pack of A&W’s finest. Someone should get their favorite beverage if mine isn’t available, right? So, with one stop I satisfied 4 requirements – well, 5 but we don’t need to go there.
Finding the monument for the GPS coordinates bonus was much easier than I expected given the ~10,000 points obtained. We simply had to write down the coordinates once we found the monument. Being a bit paranoid, plus not wanting to muck up what would be my highest point bonus, I took my GPS out of its cradle and walked the few feet to the actual monument structure to record the location. Probably unnecessary but I couldn’t help myself.
From Preston to Dinosaur National Monument, Colorado was the segment that I most enjoyed on this rally. For a couple of hours I largely forgot about how poorly I had planned my route and just lost myself in the beautiful scenery and wonderfully twisty roads offered by this little corner of the world. The ride through Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area was the biggest treat of all.
Along UT-44 through Flaming Gorge
I picked up low point bonuses at Fossil Butte and Fort Bridger before arriving at Dinosaur National Monument – once again a string of three bonuses that barely amounted to 2,000 points.
Fossil Butte National Monument near Kemmerer, WY
Dinosaur National Monument in NW Colorado
From here I was planning to head back into central Utah to pick up some more bonuses before heading back. While on the side of the road at the Dinosaur sign, I began to rethink that plan. It would be getting dark soon and I was going to be riding on similar roads to those I had eschewed in my earlier route planning – only for a lot fewer points. So, I got my rally pack out and did some quick plotting. The Cheyenne, Wyoming gas receipt bonus that, although yielded 8,000+ points, was really too few points per mile to ride to and too far from any other bonuses to consider earlier, now seemed to be in play. There was another 4,000+ point bonus for a receipt in Craig, Colorado and, from there, it was ~90 miles up to the “relative safety” of I-80.
This didn’t look so bad. The only question was whether I could get to Cheyenne via Craig and back to the hotel in time. The GPS was saying that, not only could I do that, but I should be able to get the blue buffalo statue at Antelope State Park on the way in. It would clearly be too late, (or too early – depending on your perspective), to go inside and get the ~8,400 points for a photo of a live buffalo but the blue one was worth 2,000+ points by itself.
Okay, I had a new plan that I was more comfortable with. All I had to do was ride to Craig, buy gas and head north to pick up I-80. Gas in Craig was easy but the ride up to the Interstate proved to be slower than I had hoped. It was now a little after dusk and, while I never saw any live deer on the road, there were plenty of BIG ones along the sides and just beyond the worthless, 3-foot tall fences that lined the road. This made for some very cautious riding and took about 40 minutes longer than I expected. This delay, coupled with LOTS of one-lane, 45 mph construction zones on I-80, put to rest any hope I had of a meeting with the blue buffalo.
It’s not as though Interstate 80 is a deer free zone but I felt much more secure leap frogging all of the semis on my way into Cheyenne than I had all alone on WY-789. It would not be hard to convince me that the entire city of Cheyenne is under construction. With all of the road closures and detours it was no easy matter to find a gas station to satisfy the bonus requirements. Once I finally did find one, predictably, the pump didn’t produce a receipt for me. After going inside the story wasn’t much better. The register receipt I was handed did not say Cheyenne, WY on it anywhere. It merely had a store number. After getting no sympathy from the cashier I located an ATM in the corner and obtained a good receipt. I hoped that the two would suffice and steered my bike towards SLC.
It was now simply a numbers game to see if I could make it back before 7AM. The ETA on the GPS was at 07:09 but steadily descended as the miles passed. I was gaining another minute about every 11 or 12 miles but I was also starting to feel the effects of the miles I had packed on. I calculated that I’d need one more gas stop and Rock Springs looked like a good candidate. Before I got there, however, I had to admit that I needed some rest. All of those Interstate miles were taking their toll and I had too far to go to simply try and push through the fatigue. The ETA now said I had about an eight minute cushion with opportunity to build more so I stopped at the next rest area. I keep a few pure caffeine tablets in my tank bag for just such an occasion. They simply contain about the same amount of caffeine as a standard cup of coffee. I took one of these tablets, set the alarm on my cell phone for 15 minutes and lay down on one of the concrete benches near the curb.
I was startled awake by the sound of a nearby car door closing. I looked at the phone and saw that I had been asleep about 11 or 12 minutes. I actually felt pretty refreshed so I canceled the alarm and got back on the road. That nap and the caffeine did the trick! Although I had a few minutes to make up and a gas stop still remaining I at least knew that I would not become a danger to myself or others.
I briefly saw temperatures in the mid-90’s earlier in the day and some in the high-30’s over night but most of the ride was in the 70’s and 80’s. Other than adding my electric liner in Cheyenne I was pretty comfortable the whole rally in the same gear. The rest of the ride was fairly uneventful.
I arrived at the hotel at 6:51 AM and was checked in by Mr. McQueeney. As has been reported, Mr. Chalmers’ pioneering scoring process went very fast and I was soon on my way to my room for a shower and a nap before the awards banquet. As I suspected, I had the highest total mileage of anyone, (1,605 – and probably the lowest efficiency score), which would be great if that were the aim.
My final route - such as it is
After steadily improving my placement in my first 3 rallies, (’07 SPANK 11th, ’08 LOE 7th and ’09 CAL24 6th place – a trend certain to end sooner rather than later), I reckoned my points total would put me somewhere mid-pack. While I was disappointed that I would not continue my upward trend, I can’t be too sad about my eventual 16th place finish. Some good take-aways for me were that I improved on some things that I had targeted from past rally experiences and some more areas arose that I can work on next time.
A huge thanks goes to Steve and all of the volunteers who work tirelessly so that the rest of us can have so much fun. I also owe a debt of gratitude to all of those veteran rallyists who've helped me, both directly and indirectly. It's not often that the best competitors in any sport or activity are so willing to share what they know with anyone else who is willing to learn. Of course, knowing what to do and actually accomplishing it are two different things.
Lastly, as always I need to thank my very understanding and supportive wife for allowing me the privilege of going to play like this.